I describe your writing in The Western Lands and All That Really Matters as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for fantasy, but it also has a heart-warming side. Were there any particular books you’ve read that helped you develop your style?
I’ll take being compared to Douglas Adams any day. 😁
Developing my style probably comes down to everything I’ve read and enjoyed. I certainly loved the Hitchhiker’s books. But I’ve always been drawn to wordy, nerdy humour — I’m a big fan of Weird Al Yankovic and Tom Lehrer. Monty Python was a big influence when I was young. I’m a huge fan of William Gibson, and make a point of re-listening to his books every couple of years. But it all mushes together in my brain into a glob of influence rather than a single thing that I can point to.
To borrow a question from Seth Meyers, when did you first know you were funny? Was there an aha moment when you realized you had the ability to make people laugh and entertain them?
In high school, I was involved in my temple youth group’s production of the musical “Two By Two,” about Noah. I played Noah’s oldest son, Shem. I don’t think I was all that good, and I certainly had no idea what I was doing, but somehow — miraculously — on the evening of the performance, I relaxed into the role and brought some life to it. I delivered one of the lines (sorry, can’t remember which) using a funny, mocking voice I’d never used before. It got a big laugh, and the first hints of a light bulb went off over my head.
Eight years later, my good friend Robert Lowe brought improv comedy to Atlanta. We knew each other from our aikido training, and in 1984 he said, “I’m going to start teaching improvisation,” to which I said, “I’d do that.” So I went along to the first class he taught, and it was only a matter of weeks before that I went on stage for the first time. Audiences laughed and I became part of the troupe that evolved from those first classes.
You’re originally a Texan! What brought you to New South Wales, Australia, and how long have you lived there?
In 1986, I met the most wonderful woman in the world, an Aussie named Billie Dean (see: billiedean.com). Eleven months to the day later, we got married. I moved to Oz to be with her, and we’re still together today.
What’s the most Texas sentence you can think of?
“Hook’em horns!” (It’s the chant and finger symbol of the University of Texas at Austin, where I did my undergrad work.)
Having said that, when I meet someone who knows a language I don’t know, I try to get them to translate, “Get yer butt off my Cadillac.” I’m led to understand it is a difficult concept to translate into Swahili.